There Aren’t Really Any Monsters Under the Bed!

There aren’t really any monsters under the bed!

A sermon given August 2022 on Blessing of the Backpacks Sunday
By Kate Fields

Picture this! It’s night time and all the lights have been turned off. The bedtime story has already been read, and you’re supposed to be going to sleep. But sleep is totally impossible because, you’re absolutely sure that at that very moment there is a very scary monster directly under your bed who will at any moment grab you! So you pull the covers completely over your head and do your best to stay very still so it doesn’t realize you are there. And then eventually as minutes pass, you gain a little courage to peep out one eye from the blanket. Nothing there. Then, a bit more courage to pull the blankets down. You know what you have to do. You have to face the monster and vanquish it!

So, you grab the game controller by your bed just in case you need something hard to throw quickly. And then you get a final surge of courage to do it. You leap from the bed down onto your knees and pull up the covers under the bed to deal with this monster who is a mortal threat. And then… you see it…. all that’s actually under the bed is a missing sock, a candy wrapper and some dust bunnies.

It turns out that there aren’t really monsters under your bed. All that fear was for naught.

Isn’t that so real though? Maybe you are a full blown adult and you can actually fall asleep without looking under the bed. But life can be hard and sometimes scary and we all still have monsters who we are sure are under the bed. Fear can be a good controller of our minds, our bodies, and it can direct our paths.

I think this is why in scripture, Jesus talks about fear so much. Jesus says some version of “do not fear” over and over and over in the gospels. It almost seems as if “do not fear” is actually a part of the gospel, which means good news.

It’s everywhere— today we have three instances where we see some variation of: “do not fear” in scripture.

In our lectionary Gospel text today in Luke 12:

Jesus says: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Creator’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
In this context, we are not supposed to let fear keep us from living lives poured out in service to others. Why does Jesus say this? Because fear of not having enough— can be a deeply embedded fear in our lives and it can keep us hoarding what we have because our eyes can only see scarcity. There’s not enough and there never will be enough. We can’t see the bounty, the plenty, the beauty, and the opportunities around us.

Our next text is Jesus’ Farewell Discourse, or teachings he gave his disciples right before his death. Flag these as really important teachings that Jesus wanted to be sure his followers understood before he left them. I think of these teachings as I think of a spouse or a parent hollering at you as you’re late and running out the door: “Remember this….. ”
In this passage, the disciples couldn’t believe Jesus was about to leave them… and furthermore, they didn’t want to see him go. He was their teacher, mentor, rabbi, Savior, and their friend. But he tells them essentially in this verbose passage that he has to go so that he can prepare a place for them in paradise, and also that he has to go on, so that the Holy Spirit, the very third part of God, their Advocate could be given to them.

Jesus says in John 14,
25 “I have spoken these things to you while I am with you. 26 The Companion, the Holy Spirit, whom the Creator will send in my name, will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I told you.27 “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t be troubled or afraid.”
I am giving you my powerful Spirit to go and do the work of love in the world. In fact, just a few verses prior to this, Jesus says: the world will know you are my disciples by how you love each other. Do not be troubled or afraid. I leave my peace with you.
Then lastly, our Psalm text— from Psalm 56:3-4 reads:
3 whenever I’m afraid,
    I put my trust in you—
4         in God, whose word I praise.
        I trust in God; I won’t be afraid.
    What can mere flesh do to me?

You may know this Psalm from learning it in song format in a children’s song — my mom taught me this to try to give me the courage to face my fears as a kid.

When I am afraid, I will trust in you, I will trust in you, I will trust in you.
When I am afraid, I will trust in you, in God whose word I praise.”

Anyone know that? Am I completely dating myself?
Do not fear. Don’t not be afraid. Have no fear of them. When I am afraid, I will trust in you. These are ALL over scripture. We could be here all day exegeting verses which talk about not fearing. All of these different ways of saying:
whatever is to come will not be waded through if you let fear drown you
We know that fear can be downright paralyzing. And I’m not talking about the helpful and necessary kind of fear that helps us create healthy boundaries, like say, not sticking our hands on a hot stove or attempting to merge onto the busy interstate without checking the mirrors first. Or like, Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber says:
“The only time fear isn’t a liar is when you are actually about to be attacked by a bear or asked to do the chicken dance at a wedding or some other imminent threat.”

The kind of fear that we are talking about today is fear that attaches our worth to our successes and failures and loves it when we build walls of shame around those insecurities. It steals sleep, and joy and in return, and replaces honest smiles with fake ones. It’s a fear that keeps us scared of ourselves and others, and thus, unable to love with the kind of love that Jesus would model even through this death.
This fear does not co-exist well with gratitude and humility, so it keeps us entangled with scarcity, pride, and arrogance.
Jesus said: do not fear. That is not to say that fear won’t be around you and in you, but part of the Gospel’s Good News is that fear does not have to drive your bus anymore. It does not have to control your life. So when those frequent flyer thoughts of fear come up, remember these words of Jesus. Remember there is a powerful, divine peace given to you. Remember God’s Spirit is with you. Remember that you are so loved by the God who created you. Remember that you are part of a strong church who loves you and has your back. Do not be afraid.
So kids, especially as you begin a new school year and have all kinds of new things that you aren’t sure about and maybe even scared of… remember that God is with you. And remember that monster under the bed. It’s not even real.
I’d like to close with a brief story. My spouse and I went to a concert a few months back where Kathy Matthea and Suzy Bogguss sang together. They are good friends so it was a lot of fun to see them go back and forth. In between songs, Kathy shared a story about her mom. She and her mom were very close and apparently Kathy loved singing basically ever since she could talk (are any of us surprised?). Anyway, as Kathy grew up, she really wanted her mom to sing with her, but her mom never would. She thought she had a terrible voice and was too afraid to sing in front of other people, even her family. So Kathy never heard her singing voice. As Kathy’s mom entered her final years of life, she developed severe dementia and to everyone’s surprise… she sang all the time. Kathy said simply: “My mom forgot that she couldn’t sing.” And she sang and sang and sang and sang.

My prayer is that if you have perceived monsters under your bed that are keeping you from singing — from living— that you would pull up those covers and realize they aren’t even real. Forget them. Forget that you don’t think your voice is good enough. Forget that you can’t do something because you’re scared of putting yourself out there. Forget that you think you aren’t smart enough or good looking enough.

There aren’t really any monsters under the bed.

We need you to be you. We need your gifts. We need your courage. We need you to show up and show us your heart.

Do not be troubled or afraid. May it ever be so.

Hence, I write.

With exhaustion lingering, I am recalling the quote “take action first and let the insight follow.” I have been waiting to blog until I had the energy and space to pen a revelation. Lo and behold, with this modality, I have written very infrequently. So here is a very succinct post to call out the scarcity that I continue to function within; the scarcity that prohibits my creativity is the greatest enemy of all. Hence, I write.

I write of the beauty of my life as it is and the burdens I carry from the enlightenment I receive from Divinity School. Today was beautiful in many ways, one of which being that it was the advent of fall. I could not have asked Creator God for a more beautiful manifestation of Godself than what was displayed today. The wind made itself well-known, but it was a gentle enough wind that I could smell the changing season. The sunlight was equally gentle, allowing me to see the blue sky without squinting.

The day held me gently while I wrestled with the Doctrine of the Trinity, American civil religion, sacrament, and sexism.

Love, life, resonance, passion, an ah-ha moment, laughter — all these things I felt today. It turns out that I actually have little scarcity, after all.

Who you gonna be, if you can’t be yourself?

I am writing as I am coming out of a very tiring season of life… one that I have undoubtedly grown in, yet one that has drained me of my usual inspiration and emotional stability. My defenses are down because I don’t have any energy to nurse them. My perfectionism is loving my present state and is seeping in like oil from a marine rig spill. It seeps it and it is thick, impeding my soul from inspiration and joviality.

So perfectionism becomes my norm and not an exception. I am not strong enough to resist societal and personal pressures of perfection from my surroundings. Why am I writing this? Because I think you probably, deep down, can identify. We live in a world of scarcity, which greets us in the morning, telling us we didn’t sleep enough last night, then accompanies us through the day. Not enough. We don’t have enough money. We aren’t put together enough today. We aren’t fitting the cultural gender norms enough (for females: nice, thin, & modest; for males: emotional control, primacy of work, violence, and pursuit of status) . We aren’t thin enough. We aren’t smart enough. We aren’t working hard enough. This line of thinking quickly turns into… ok, well, I should do this more, I should work out more, I should be working at a better paying job because most of my peers my age have surpassed my station, I should be a “better Christian”, I should run to the store because this shirt is so 10 years ago, I should be more interested in this popular hobby, I should have made first team, I should appear to be more invincible, I should act like I care who Justin Beiber is dating, I should be having children right now, I should be prettier so I won’t get bullied, I should be shorter, I should be taller, I should be married by now, I should have the latest iPhone to keep up with the times, I should, I should, I should.

Where am I getting these ideas? Oh my friend… from many, many conversations carefully dancing around the topic of scarcity, without every calling it out for what it is. I’m not going to be silent or sugar coat today. I don’t have the energy to do either. Just enough energy to write my truth.

These “shoulds” take over and honestly, we listen to them, we conform, and we become a shell of who we really are deep down… we become a shadow of who we want to be. And let’s not fool ourselves… the shell looks ok on the outside, but hideous in the inside. It sucks our energy out of us to be someone or something we are not.

Who are you going to be if you can’t be yourself?

Dr. Brene Brown, a vulnerability and shame researcher writes in her latest book, Daring Greatly: “We can’t give people what we don’t have. Who we are matters immeasurably more than what we know or who we want to be.”

I frankly don’t have the energy to compare myself to someone else any longer. I am my best when I love who I am. I am able to help and love and change things when I am at my best. I will not become a shadow. This is me. Accept me or move along.

As I pen this post, I am reminded of some chillingly appropriate lyrics from: “Pick Yer Nose,” by Ani Difranco, a folk music lyrical genius.

How come I can pick my ears
But not my nose
Who made up that rule anyway
How can you say that’s the way it is
That’s just the way it goes
Why don’t you decide for yourself
What you can do
And what you can say

I think shy is boring
I think depressed is too
I think pretty is nice
But I’d rather see something new
All these plastic people
Got their plastic surgery
But we got a big big beautiful
We got it for free
Who you gonna be
If you can’t be yourself
You can’t get it from t.v.
You can’t force it on
Anybody else

‘Cause I’m not going to pretend
That I don’t pick my nose
That’s just the way it is, my friends
That’s just the way it goes
This is who I am
What I do
And what I say
If you like it, let it be
If you don’t, please do the same

I fight with love
I laugh with rage
You gotta live light enough to see the humor
And long enough to see some change

So today, I will celebrate myself for who I am. I will honor all of the parts of me. My gifts, my talents, my body, my smile, my knowledge repertoire, my spirit, my spirituality, my laugh, my passions.

I freely admit I am imperfect, I don’t know everything there is to know about biology, I do not have a huge bank account, I may not have the wittiest response, I do not have the strongest arms or fastest mile run, and I will probably screw up something in the next hour if given the opportunity.

But I can promise you that I will be kind to you, that I will hug you, and I will respect you for who you are. I can promise you I will fight for equality with my hands and my faith. I can promise you when I say I will pray for you that I will. I can promise you that when you speak to me, I will be present and attentive. I can promise you that I will give you dignity. This is me; I am Kate.

So see me. See right through me. And let me be.

I always welcome comments. Even on personal posts like this. Tell me your story… tell me how you pick your nose.

Never Enough: Thoughts on the Art of Scarcity

As the beginning of 2013 approached, I was feeling some internal pressure to write an obligatory New Years blog post… stating all the beautiful and not-so-beautiful moments of 2012 and then conversely all that I look forward to in 2013. And though I think reflection is incredibly important, I didn’t quite get that written in time. So in typical drive thru fashion, I’ll quickly state a few things that stuck out for me (and I’d love to hear some that stuck out for you too), and then move onto a topic that’s been heavy on my thoughts: scarcity. More to come on that in a second.

2012 Highlights (in no particular order):

1) A trip to Asheville, North Carolina: A city of activists… a place I’d love to end up.

2) Chopping off my hair: Having short hair is the most economical decision I’ve ever made. Saves time and hair product expense. And it helps me to not look so nerdy all the time. I can use all the help I can get.

3) Writing for BioLogos: A organization that explores the compatibility of evolutionary creation and biblical faith.

4) Shaking Anne Lamott’s hand

5) Hearing Ani Difranco sing “32 Flavors” live

6) The Our Emptying Church blog series, which has brought more joy to me than many other things in 2012.

7) Exploring the Rocky Mountains of Colorado with two of my favorite chicas in the world (and getting to reunite with a long lost friend).

8) Meeting the very cool and talented Chris Adams at a conference and later joining in on a Lifeway Women’s Generational Discussion, which taught me how productive graceful dialogue can be.

9) First reading Rachel Held Evans blog and then getting to have a conversation with her. What a beautiful, beautiful woman. I’m so thankful for her voice, which has given dignity to folks… especially women, encouraging and empowering them to love God and love people. Eshet Chayil!

10) Sitting down to many coffee dates with ministers who are working towards justice, peace, and love. And then having the privilege of sitting under their instruction.

So there’s a couple highlights for me though the list could go on and on… I have met some absolutely beautiful people in 2012.

Now I should probably dive into the obligatory New Years Resolutions, but I’d rather talk about something a little less discussed, but that I’d like to focus on big time in 2013. Scarcity. The feeling of never having enough. Enough money. Enough love. Enough time. Enough security. Enough success. Enough power. Enough perfection. We live scarcity everyday.

I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s new book about her research on vulnerability and shame, called: Daring Greatly.

Dr. Brown quotes Lynn Twist, a global activist who writes about scarcity:

“For me and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is “I didn’t get enough sleep.” The next one is “I don’t have enough time.” Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it…. Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something…. This internal condition of scarcity, this mind-set of scarcity, lives at the very heart of our jealousies, our greed, our prejudice, and our arguments with life” (The Soul of Money, p. 43-45).

We are very aware of how much we lack. Our culture, via the media, perpetuates unattainable visions of perfection and those pervade our thoughts and dictate our worth. I love what Brene says… which is, that we are comparing ourselves to fiction!

I think worrying about scarcity can take many different forms. Most obviously, we worry that we don’t have enough money. Maybe just as frequently, we worry about our physiques. But I think the elephant in the room may be that we worry about power. Does our church have enough power and political influence? How can we control culture? Will my children listen to me? How can I control the people in my life? How can I control my significant other? We relish control because it gives a false sense of security. Control makes us worried and scared and frankly, at one another’s throats.

Dr. Brown’s research shows that the counter-attack on scarcity is not abundance, but rather, wholeheartedness. The idea of living with vulnerability and worthiness, facing uncertainty, exposure, and emotional risks while knowing deep down, that I am enough.

I want to make a clear distinction between fighting scarcity and being content with the status quo. There are some things in this state, this country, and this world that I am not and will never be content with, most of which include inequality, patriarchy, discrimination, and injustice. Regarding these things, I have no excuse to remain silent or content. However, I completely identify with Brene’s research. In 2012, I tried to cut out a majority of time spent on TV, news, the radio, and even movies because I felt a little bit angry about the images I was being fed. I was angry about the way the media portrays women’s bodies as objects, about how the news channels frequently feed hysteria, hype, and fear about anything and everything you could possibly imagine, about how video games and movies are incredibly violent and portray war as something glorious. I was angry about receiving subtle messages about how I should think or vote. Isn’t this my obligation to research, reflect on, and decide for myself? I was angry about the amount of time I spent listening to someone else’s fictional life.

It turned out to be a good decision for me. I plan on cutting back even more media in 2013 because I want to live. I don’t want to salivate at fictional representations of perfection and then claw my way through life trying to match them.

To define my worthiness by how I love, how I treat folks, how I listen to people who I disagree with, how I give up power and invite in vulnerability… these are the things I am interested in. I want to be able to accept that I’ll never be extremely wealthy, the most trendy chica on the block, or the best statistician in the bunch. I want to be content with that.

And I think it’s possible, with great intentionality and discipline, to slap scarcity in the face.

What are some of your beautiful 2012 moments? What are you resolved to do in 2013?

**If you’d like to check out Brene’s new book, Daring Greatly, here’s the link. I’d highly recommend it!